Priti Patel announces £25million fund to keep women safe

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Ms Patel pledged the country would “build back safer” following the pandemic and said the extra cash will go to “crime prevention initiatives across the country where women and girls say they feel most unsafe”. She said: “The tragic cases of Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa, Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman have touched us all.

“As we build back safer from the pandemic, tackling violence against women and girls is my priority.”

Human rights lawyer Baroness Kennedy QC said she was tired of hearing police forces say they will “learn lessons” in the wake of a tragedy. She warned that “institutions often will put their own reputations first”.

She blasted the Met Police for its failure to deal with Wayne Couzens, who was jailed last week for the murder of Ms Everard.

The 33-year-old marketing executive was handcuffed and snatched off the street by police officer Couzens as she walked home.

He then drove her 80 miles, before raping and murdering her. Couzens was handed a rare whole-life jail term, meaning he will die in prison.

Baroness Kennedy said Couzens, who was a Met officer at the time he falsely arrested Ms Everard, had “sent out alarm signals to colleagues” and was on “inquiry lists in relation to flashing behaviour”.

And last night it emerged that Couzens had been posted at the Houses of Parliament to guard MPs on a number of occasions.

He carried out duties there on at least five occasions and was even issued with an “access all areas” pass, it was reported. Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Commons Speaker, said he was “extremely concerned” by the news.

He said: “Like everyone, I have been sickened by the depravity of Wayne Couzens – and heartbroken for the family of Sarah Everard.

“I have asked the Met to meet me urgently to discuss how this person could have been deemed suitable for deployment here. Further, I will be seeking reassurance that at no time was anyone on the parliamentary estate put at risk.”

Former policing minister Sir Mike Penning said serving police officers needed to be “properly appraised” “to establish if they were still a “fit and proper person to be in the job”.

He stressed the horror there Will be in officer ranks at how Couzens has damaged the reputation of policing, saying: “I can only imagine how distraught they are that all the work they do in community policing has just been trashed by this monster… [The] police do care enormously. They live in our communities just like you and me. They’ve got kids as well.”

Former security minister Sir John Hayes wants the criminal justice system to respond to public outrage at Couzens’s actions by taking a much tougher approach to crime so offenders get their “just deserts”.

He said: “This boils down to locking up many more people for much longer than we do now. We have got to recognise that wickedness exists and it manifests in the person of certain deviant individuals like this monstrous man.

“Those people need to know the law will crack down relentlessly and with righteous retribution.”

Ex-education minister Tim Loughton said the police urgently needed to repair trust, and he pressed them to be, “as high profile in uniform as possible on the streets”.

He added: “This has been a very fundamental breach of trust between the public and the police – particularly a break of trust with women. [If] the public have lost that trust policing is going to become much more problematic. The police just need to get out there”.

Lord Davies of Gower, a former detective with the Met, described Couzens’s actions as “sickening beyond belief” but he did not think the public had lost faith in the police.

Comparing Couzens to Harold Shipman, the GP who murdered patients in his care, he expressed sympathy for hardworking policemen and women who now find their profession in the spotlight.

And warning against any move to sack Met Police chief Dame Cressida Dick, he said: “Changing the commissioner isn’t going to change anything.”

Support for Dame Cressida staying in post also came from Pauline Latham. The former mayor of Derby, who now represents Mid Derbyshire for the Conservatives, said she wants officers to be empowered to report any concerns they may have over the behaviour of their colleagues without the fear of recrimination.

She said she also wants action to change attitudes among men and boys so they know that abuse and violence is never acceptable.

She said: “It isn’t women and girls who are at fault. It is men and boys.

“We don’t have to change. It’s men and boys who have to change.”

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